Ark Life

- David West

This is a novel that mixes space opera spectacle with social SF

RELEASED 15 FEBRUARY 400 pages | Paperback/ebook

Author Gareth L Powell

Publisher Titan Books

Humanity has become a spacefarin­g civilisati­on, but not in a manner inducing confidence that a Star Trek-style utopian future lies ahead. That’s because humanity has been kicked off Earth, and now wanders between the stars in a fleet of arks.

Still, things could be worse. Humanity was on the verge of obliterati­ng itself in a nuclear holocaust when a watching “angel”, a creature so ancient it arrived in the solar system “aeons before the dinosaurs first walked the land”, intervened. The angel did this only because scientist Frank Tucker discovered “substrate”: wormhole travel, a technologi­cal leap big enough for it to revise humanity’s status to “worthy of further study”.

It’s an intriguing scenario, especially as Gareth L Powell shows us this fleet not centuries hence, but just a few years after humanity’s banishment. Here is a fictional universe where it’s the immediate descendant­s of those alive today dealing with a future that suddenly went SF on their asses. And a dangerous future, as we learn when we see spacefarin­g navigator Eryn heading for the planet Candidate-623. Here, in an Alien-like scenario, a threat to humanity’s survival reveals itself, one that Eryn has personal reasons for wanting to confront.

But don’t expect the body horror scenes, while they’re certainly present, to get too gnarly too often. This is also a novel that mixes space opera spectacle with social SF. Indeed, there are moments when you long to spend more time with the fleet, even if that’s at the expense of the plot moving along. That’s perhaps a reflection of the way that Powell seems fascinated here by the idea of connection, and what happens when people get cut adrift. It’s an occasional­ly uneven scene-setter for the author’s new Continuanc­e sequence, but a novel with heart and ambition – and quantum weirdness – to spare.

Need advice on your novel? Powell has been revising his 2019 book About Writing, aimed at aspiring authors. ETA: May.

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